Thirty years ago
The Tory education shadow spokesperson Rhodes Boyson (he of the Dickensian sideburns) was claiming social workers were responsible for the “soaring crime rate”. Were practitioners robbing vulnerable clients, vandalising council property and robbing banks?
No, it’s worse than that! The “so-called permissive lobby had probably created more evil and agony than any other lobby in history”, said our bewhiskered shadow minister.
What, more then the Nazis, the Stalinist purges, the Mongol invasions? Aware that he might have gone a bit overboard, Boyson clarified: “A minority [of social workers] are determined to destroy the liberal democratic society” by using criminals to bring about world destruction – a bit like Goldfinger in the eponymous James Bond novel.
But Boyson’s theory was undermined by this snippet in the same issue. Train robber Ronnie Biggs’s attempt at releasing a record with the Sex Pistols had the “mockers” put on it by the other gang members, who shouted: “Ron, it’s too anarchistic.”
Boyson could safely sleep in his bed knowing that the country’s criminals are far too patriotic to go near the social workers’ criminal revolutionary lobby.
Which reminds me of another 1978 story. A group of UK Maoists theorised that prisoners were the vanguard of the revolution. So, desperate to spread the Little Red Book’s message, they attacked some coppers and were put away. Where they were disabused of their theory.
Twenty five years ago
Backchat couldn’t be with Nelson Mandela to celebrate his 90th birthday last month. But it’s good to see in attendance supergroup Queen (who broke sanctions on South Africa by playing Sun City), former Spice Girl and Margaret Thatcher admirer Geri Halliwell, and the ever entertaining Amy Winehouse, who sang her heart out before hiking to Glastonbury to “hit a fan”.
But social workers did their bit when Nelson was in Robben Island prison 25 years ago. Apparently, an employee of Carlisle (that’s the council and not John Carlisle, the apartheid-loving former Tory MP) asked for a tape of Norman Tutt’s social inquiry reports from Lancaster University. He jokingly explained in his request how he was taking extended study leave now that the Tories were in power and gave Robben Island, Indian Ocean, South Africa, as one of his addresses.
Sadly, the joke fell flat and Lancaster sent the tapes to their Indian Ocean destination.
Hopefully, Norman Tutt’s social inquiry reports put a smile on Nelson’s and the other prisoners’ faces. Then again, the guards might have thought it was all some social worker plot a la Rhodes Boyson and confiscated the lot.
Twenty years ago
Also in southern Africa, a social care trust was implementing a home education service for children with learning disabilities.
The ZimCare Trust was pioneering the “Portage” initiative, which involved social care staff travelling great distances to educate children at home in partnership with parents, local communities and the government.
The scheme used education cards and videos and often had to work with children traumatised by the loss of their parents or who were living in refugee camps.
In fact, the programme was so good that the writer ended with: “The Zimbabwean experience has much to offer us.”
Today, that sentiment seems so far away.